Last week, the Department of Education released its latest report about the state of reading in America. Results, estimated from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), indicate that 32 million adult Americans lack fundamental literacy skills. Leaders in adult literacy education cite undiagnosed learning disabilities, immigration, and high school dropout rates as factors, but illiterate adults are not the only ones who aren’t reading. An oft-quoted 2007 Associated Press Poll found that 27% of adult Americans did not read a single book in 2006. It seems that fewer and fewer adults are reading—some due to poor ...


With the holiday break winding down (we have to report back to school on Friday for staff development), I am in work-avoidance mode. Instead of taking down my Christmas decorations, lesson planning or writing, I decided to clean out the bookmarks in my computer under the guise of doing something productive. After two hours, I realized that I had fallen into the rabbit hole, the colorful, magical, random world that so often sucks me into the Internet. I have some gems in the rabbit hole—Websites that make my eyes glaze over with reading bliss, and surprisingly, enhance my classroom ...


Each winter, the children’s literature world debates the upcoming Newbery Awards, the annual honor given each January by the American Library Association for the best children’s books of the previous year. Scores of book bloggers create Newbery shortlists predicting the winners, while libraries across the country host mock Newbery committees. Discussing the timeless appeal and literary merit of the books we read is an authentic pastime for readers, but this year the importance of the Newbery Award itself is the center of a media storm. In the October edition of the revered book review publication School Library Journal, ...


Eight English teachers, surrounded by hundreds of teenagers, stand in line behind velvet ropes. Everyone wears black, sporting t-shirts bearing slogans like, “And so the lion fell in love with the lamb,” and “Edward prefers brunettes.” Two girls, in matching Cullen Crest jackets, snap pictures of the crowd with their cell phones. When the theater doors finally open, my friend Jennifer, the head of her high school English department, zigzags forcefully through the crowd and secures us a row of seats. More than one group of girls eyes us with bemused expressions, but for tonight, we are united in a ...


I have radar for kids that read a lot. Kids who read while walking down the hall—noses buried in The Odyssey or The Warrior Heir, kids who pester our librarian daily for the latest sequel in a beloved series, kids who lug books to the principal’s office, the bus line, or the lunchroom— I see avid readers everywhere. Perhaps I recognize kindred spirits, readers for whom books are a natural extension of themselves and who cannot spend a day without reading. I was this kind of reader in school. You might recognize readers like this in your own ...


It takes some of my students longer than others to fall in love with books, so it cheered me last week to see Bobby checking out all six books in Gordon Korman’s action-packed On the Run series. Bobby, a developing reader, has had a bit of trouble finding books that he enjoys. Sidling up to him, I said, “Wow, it seems like you are really making some reading plans. What interests you in reading On the Run? I know that a lot of kids in the class love it.” Looking guilty, Bobby asked, “May I check out all of ...


Currently switching between two books, People of the Book: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks, the story of one book that unites people across cultures and time, and Inkdeath, the latest in Cornelia Funke’s popular Inkworld series, I am reminded of how much I love fiction books that include readers and books in their plotlines: Books that highlight the importance and joy of reading. Books that reveal the power of reading to transform your life. Books that provide social commentary about censorship. Books that show reading as a path out of ignorance and oppression. Books where reading heroes rule the ...


Hiding a magazine inside a book, reading the same page for 20 minutes, or holding a book upside down—it isn’t funny when you witness students reading like this in a classroom. Fake readers can often identify words and read them out loud, but fail to understand the material they are reading. By the time fake readers arrive in my sixth grade class, they possess coping skills that hide their inability to read a book and comprehend it. Many of these students have earned A’s and B’s in language arts classes in previous years and passed state ...


My oldest daughter stuck a lapel pin into the bulletin board over her desk which reads, “School prepares you for life, which also sucks.” Cringe worthy, I know, but I imagine this sentiment is one that is commonly felt by many schoolchildren. No matter what we do to make school instruction engaging for kids, sometimes school is just school—an endless hamster wheel of assignments meant to prepare students for life as workers and contributors to society. The past decade or so of standardized reading tests and cookie-cutter curriculum has done little to change students’ negative views towards school, and ...


Sorry I have been off the grid for so long. Did you miss me? I took a little time off from blogging to finish writing my book. The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child will be in bookstores early next year, and I cannot wait for you to read it. Thanks to all of you who sent words of encouragement and support. The day after I hit “send” on the manuscript, I reported back to work. Convocation, team-building, meetings about RtI— I imagine that the first week you returned to your school looked much the same. At ...


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